Legendary American horse trainer Monty Roberts formed a bond with the queen.
Roberts and his wife visited the queen in the UK at least half a dozen times a year.
The queen encouraged Roberts to write a book, “The Man Who Listens to Horses.”
LONDON – Monty Roberts, but not his royally approved blue shirt, bright red bandana scarf and beige cowboy hat, will be at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral here Monday.
The funeral will bring to a close 10 days of national mourning for Britain’s beloved monarch. The elaborate royal funeral rites will also effectively bookend an Elizabethan age that ran for 70 years and usher in a Carolean one – when a Charles reigns.
Some observers may wonder why Roberts, an American horse trainer who has a 100-acre ranch in Solvang, California, will be present at a ceremony that will be attended by an estimated 500 heads of state and dignitaries including US President Joe Biden; Commonwealth leaders such as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe; members of royal families from all over Europe, such as Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia; and, of course, the queen’s own close family – children (King Charles III, not least), grandchildren and great-grandchildren, along with their partners and spouses.
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The reasons are clear to Roberts.
“I wouldn’t want to be the one to characterize our friendship. She had at least 50% of it,” the 87-year-old trainer says of the queen in an interview on the eve of her funeral at Westminster Abbey. “But if you ask me, we had an extremely close relationship.”
In fact, for a monarch who rigorously kept her opinions to herself, the queen’s fondness for a horse trainer revered for his gentle, affectionate methods – Roberts is often referred to as “the real Horse Whisperer” after the 1998 Robert Redford movie and 1995 Nicholas Evans book of the same name – was an open secret.
The queen’s passion for horses was rivaled only by her love for corgis. When Ronald Reagan visited Windsor Castle in 1982, the queen and the president rode a pair of sleek-coated black stallions for an hour-long trek around the castle’s private grounds.
She first heard about Roberts after reading about his training techniques. After dispatching one of her horse trainers to California to observe his methods, she invited him to Britain to try them out on the royal family’s horses.
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That was more than 30 years ago.
Over the last three decades, Roberts made about a half-dozen trips each year to Britain to advise the queen about her horses. She also dispatched him to more than 40 countries in Africa, Asia and South America to spread his methods.
“She called me on the phone directly a few times,” says Roberts. “Though most of the time I called her. That was the arrangement. I called about 200 times. Not one was rejected. Once I got pretty close, though. She was in Northern Ireland at the time. While an aide was telling me she couldn’t take the call, I heard her in the background saying, ‘Is that Monty?’ Well, she immediately got on the line and said her meeting had ended.”
Eventually, Roberts says, the queen encouraged him to write a book about his horse-training techniques. Titled the “The Man Who Listens to Horses,” it became a bestseller.
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He says he and his wife Pat, who is in London with him for Monday’s funeral, would sometimes stay at Buckingham Palace for “weeks at a time” and that the queen treated them like family. He recalls her corgis being a constant presence.
In the early days of their burgeoning friendship, he says he was asked by palace staff to take off his cowboy hat each time he met with her, but she soon decided to bestow royal approval on his usual attire, including his hat.
“She told me: ‘I dub this your uniform, which means you don’t have to take off your hat when you are speaking with me,'” Roberts says. “Most people I’ve asked about this say it’s unusual.”
“The Man Who Listens to Horses” dealt with his life up until he met the queen – he has also worked with veterans who suffer from PTSD – and he now wants to write a book about his life since meeting the queen.
“I’m 87. I may not get to see it published. But there should be a book,” he says.
For the funeral, Roberts will wear mourning clothes, at the palace’s request.
“I didn’t even bring my Western hat,” he says. “It’s a little difficult to travel with.”
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